A July 2 administrative meeting — called by District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson at the request of Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans to talk about alleged improprieties and an expected July 9 Council vote to remove him as chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee — left most Council members unimpressed.
“The distrust has grown,” Mendelson told reporters in the fifth-floor hallway of the Wilson Building after the two-hour informal meeting. “I did not see answers that calmed the members, and I understand why there were some answers that were not provided, but that certainly was not calming.”
In March, Evans has been reprimanded by the Council after using his government email and staff to offer his position to help possible clients. On June 21, his Georgetown home was raided by the FBI, while a federal general jury continues its investigation of Evans, who has not been charged with any crime.
“I am not here to say that in retrospect I could not have acted better,” Evans began in his opening statement at the Tuesday meeting. “I could have. I am not here to say that I did not deserve some of the criticism that has been levied at me. I certainly do. And I am not here to say that your or anyone asking questions is not proper. It is. … I simply ask for a pause to slow this rush to judgment until all the facts are known and my side is heard,” said Evans, the District’s longest serving Council member. “When all is reviewed and known, you will see my actions — while not becoming — are far from that which has been reported or suggested.”
Evans, calm and measured, sat on the head of a conference table with most Council members seated on either side. Evans was not under oath, which caused Council members Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd and Robert White to depart before questioning began.
Evans wanted his colleagues to stick to questions about the report issued by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, which he chaired and from which he stepped down, that stated there was “a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests, rather than the interests of WMATA.”
For his part, Evans called the report “sloppy” and unfairly influencing Council members’ decision to consider removing him as Finance chair. When asked about specific accusations of conflicts of interest, Evans often responded after a pause to reflect: “I don’t recall that happening … not to my recollection.”
When Council member Vincent Gray asked questions — “What did the $50,000 retainer fee pay for?” — about Evans’s consulting business, Evans answered that it was a retainer for clients to ask him any questions about lots of issues of concern to them. Gray asked, “Like what issues?”
Evans answered, “I can’t give specifics. That would be a breach of confidence.”
Amid the questioning, Council members Charles Allen and David Grosso affirmed they want Evans to lose his chairmanship of the Finance committee. Allen said: “As elected officials, we don’t have a right to committees. We don’t have a right to chair committees. This is about safeguarding the public institution and safeguarding the public’s interest.” A combative Grosso added: “Slowing down now is completely unacceptable … there’s lots of questions … and enough smoke here.”
Soon enough, the meeting adjourned, and Evans walked to his office, not taking questions from the press. During the same time, according to the Washington Post, white-collar defense attorney Abbe Lowell was in the District Building.
The D.C. Council will be investigating Evans over its summer recess.
Additional reporting by Peggy Sands.